On Monday and Tuesday of this week I attended Opening Frames: Cinema and Transcendence, a conference put on by the Institute For Christian Studies. While there is a lot I could say about the conference, I’m still thinking about something that happened to me on Monday night.
As I left the Lightbox to go back to East York, a homeless man got on the bus I was on. He looked pretty young, and he kept talking loudly to no one in particular. The bus was pretty full and everyone was obviously trying to avoid eye contact with this guy. He went up to one woman who was sitting reading a newspaper and started asking her… something. I was trying to avoid any non-verbal communication with him so I sat with my headphones on and eyes closed.
I could hear the woman getting more and more frustrated at his repeated questions and I was getting more and more nervous at the possibility of him coming to me next. As someone who feels called to church ministry, I’m painfully aware of how awful this feeling is. I could come up with a list of excuses as to why I didn’t want to have a conversation with this man, but fear was the overwhelming cause of my discomfort. It is a selfish fear that would rather stay in my shell than actually make time to communicate with someone who wants to talk. In my quest for good mental health, I have had to learn how to not be ashamed of things that I ought not; however, this has also made me realize what things I should feel shame over as the first step to ethical living. Engaging with “difficult” people scares me and that is the biggest internal hurdle on my path to ministry.
But, back to the story. Once the woman succeeded in shaking him off, he went up to the front of the bus yelling, “ARE WE IN EAST YORK?” I was expecting the bus driver to kick him off at the next stop, but then something weird happened. The guy was still talking, but more quietly. The bus driver just calmly engaged him and the situation was defused. I felt awful and yet inspired. I had just heard Paul Schrader talk about the transcendence in calm and silence in cinema and now, in front of me, was a real life example.
In a bus driver I heard the voice of God.